Suffice to say that’s the exact word that I would use for one of the rare sequels that didn’t make me regret buying.
Back in 2005 an amazing little game originally made by DigiPen students came into light. Their original creation called Narbacular Drop saw the team hired by Valve. Thus Portal was born. Presentation was the key to the original and it still is with its polished puzzles, dual portal system and well scripted story of a passive-aggressive computer whose only love in life is using you for science.
Now Portal 2 has finally graced our consoles and the PC. The first thing I noticed to my elated surprise is in my PS3 copy has a code that gives me a PC copy which can also share my saved game between the two thanks to the Cloud system via Steam. Well, as long as the Playstation Network is running at the time anyways. Second thing I noticed is your character waking up back in the Aperture Science Lab. *STORY SPOILER* Now didn’t I escape from it in the first one? *END* Which is what I would think if I didn’t see the free webcomic Valve released which explained a few things and set the story a bit for the sequel. You can find the comic here: http://media.steampowered.com/apps/portal2/comic/Portal2_Lab_Rat.pdf
Now Portal 2 hasn’t really brought anything really new to the table. Same kind of puzzles, get from here to there, bring cube to button, avoid turrets, get ridiculed by the AI as it tries to kill you. Adding new elements like the various propulsion gels, launch pads and laser direction cubes keeps things fresh. Though I must admit, I am slightly dismayed at the puzzles. When you stop to think about how you solved it, it is very simple, like /facepalm simple. The real challenge is how the game trains your mind to think in certain ways so you don’t see the answer right away. You then forget the basic tricks the game teaches you abd instead your mind looks for a more complicated way to solve it.
What really set things apart and kept my mood high was the story development and the scenery. Valve’s graphic engine and the atmosphere are amazing as always as you really do feel “alone” in the larger than thought Aperture buildings. It starts off with our silent protagonist, Chell, who recently woke up from a long sleep, though there’s no idea of what year it is. Her environment which is normally pristine is now in shambles with no clue as to why. Thankfully a chatty and happy-go-lucky British bot named Wheatly (apropos no?) “helps” you out and tries to find a way out. Though honestly any Portal fan knows the best part is when GlaDos comes in and, my god, does she deliver the sarcasm in spades. *clap clap clap* Many questions are answered in this sequel as you progress and discovery the true story of what happened behind the scenes and what this science company is all about. That should satisfy many curious gamers who were left with a cliff-hanger and many unanswered questions from the first game.
Gone are the extra levels and time trials from the first game. Yet happily it is replaced with a co-op mode where you and a friend next to you or online can solve unique puzzles together much to GlaDos’ amusement. Quick button markers and set gestures help you communicate with each other and helps things from getting frustrating, especially if your online companion chooses not to use a mic.
Overall this is a must buy and if you’ve never played the first then I highly suggest getting both to appreciate the full offering that is Portal. The graphics are amazing, story and text is well done, lots of humour to be found from the random signs, environment and the script. The fun and challenging puzzles will keep you busy. On top of all, by no means is the game as short as the first one is. My only gripe, if any, is the lack of more sophisticated puzzles, special challenges and a "create a puzzle" function. That would amp the replay value through the roof as the fans of the series would jump on it like a companion cube on cake.